Let me tell you about Takedown: Red Sabre.
When it was first announced, way back in March 2012, I was pretty into it. As a huge fan of the pre-Lockdown Rainbow Six series of tactical shooters (having logged dozens of hours into the Dreamcast version of the original game and Rainbow Six 3 being pretty much the only game in my Xbox for a summer), it piqued my interest. A hardcore tactical shooter set in mostly realistic environments where you can only get shot a time or two before you’re dead? Despite my low tolerance for realism in basically any other genre, sign me up! When the chance to play the game came across my desk, I was thrilled! I’d forgotten all about it at that point and this was a pleasant surprise.
I should never have remembered it existed.
Upon loading the game into my Steam account, I was given options to customize my loadout, including a surprising variety of primary weapons, sidearms, and grenades. You can pick between different types of armor, all allegedly providing different benefits and drawbacks. You could even pick what type of rounds your gun fired! Things were going fine so far. And that’s when we tried to connect to a game.
Huh, that’s weird. Let’s try again.
Oh. Well, I don’t know jack about routers, so my poor guinea pig Brian went and did exactly what the game suggested. Still nothing. So we decided we’d just try a LAN game. It had to have LAN, right? It says we can only search for each other by our IP address. I have literally never in my life known my IP address.
It took us half an hour to connect to a multiplayer game. Now, this isn’t 100% Serellan’s fault. I doubt there’s too many copies of this game in circulation at this point, having only been officially released on September 20. But when we could get the servers to load, it was a ghost town. Finally, through some stroke of luck (and in no small part due to our lightning reflexes in clicking on the first game that actually became available), we wound up in the same game. The first thing we noticed is the lack of voice chat; everyone has to type in their communications via team chat and a pleasant (and surprisingly emotive) Microsoft Sam/Dr. Sbaitso voice reads it aloud. Tolerable enough and they promised they would add voice chat in an upcoming patch. And then we tried actually playing it. The match we wound up in was set in the game’s Tango Hunt mode, a generic “clear the map of all bad guys” gameplay type (other selectable choices include bomb defusal and a “mission” mode that has variable objectives). So I round the first corner I see and spot two tangos. I drop one of them – after about seven rounds point blank in his chest. And all the while this is happening, his friend is just hanging out, watching me. Out of curiosity, once I’ve ventilated his friend, I turn to him and just…stare back. His brilliant strategy is to take a few steps back, enter a doorway, and fire back at me. I take one hit and I’m down the rest of the match, keeping myself busy by typing “butts in the ass” in the Stephen Hawking voice they insisted I use.
Having sated my online bloodlust with crude butt jokes, I attempt to give the single player mode a try, at which point I’m crudely informed that the server is having connection issues. What server? My computer? I try again and actually get it to load. After picking from my share of generic looking maps (including an assault on a huge boat that reminded me of ffolkes and not one, but two levels seemingly ripped off from Goldeneye 007), I start on the rooftop of…somewhere, after a beefy John Clark sound-alike informs you of your vague objectives to defend this chemical company’s headquarters (I did not expect voice acting, in this game’s defense). I head down the first set of stairs I see, neither impressed nor disappointed by the game’s Unreal Engine-powered visuals. Two guys in Under Armor and berets spot me from, oh…across the building and perforate me. I try again, this time not getting halfway down the stairs before encountering a few more of these cargo pants Dolph Lundgrens. One of them I catch coming towards me thanks to the generic “OOH RAH!” chatter of my well-intentioned but ultimately worthless teammates. Half a clip goes in his general direction before he kills me somehow. After a few more futile attempts, I throw my hands up and go back to Saints Row IV.
My biggest problem with Takedown is that it’s such a good idea gone to waste. I was thrilled to learn of its existence, as a lack of worthwhile tactical shooters is one of my (many) problems with this console generation, seeing as SWAT is dead and gone and the Tom Clancy stable ain’t what she used to be. It was such a neat idea and even in the shape its in there’s still some gold to be panned. The inventory system is handled well, the visuals are serviceable, the frame-rate consistent, and after an hour of struggling to get into a game your connection remains sturdy enough. But when the nicest things you can say about a game are “it has a lot of guns” and “loads pretty quick, I guess”, something’s gone wrong. Takedown: Red Sabre wants to be a good game and could have been with another year of development or so. But as it stands right now? Stick to Counter-Strike. Or…anything, really.